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OPT: The Gaza Strip Situation Report 16 May 2007

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Rising Death Toll - Concern Over Deteriorating Situation

Update on Internal Palestinian Fighting:

Internal fighting in Gaza is now entering its fourth day with at least 37 dead and 114 injured since Sunday. This is the third round of intense factional fighting seen in Gaza this year leaving at least 128 Palestinians dead and 692 injured since 1 January 2007.

Following the killing of a senior Fatah leader on Sunday 13 May in Jabalia in northern Gaza, violence erupted throughout the Gaza Strip and particularly in Gaza city. Two attempted ceasefires collapsed within hours and fighting continued between Fatah forces and Hamas and its affiliated Executive Support Force (ESF). Today, fighting has taken place around security installations in Gaza city with few incidents reported elsewhere in northern, central and southern Gaza.

In one of the worst incidents, on 15 May, seven members of Fatah security forces were killed near Karni crossing when their jeep was hit by a rocket alleged to be fired by Hamas militants. This morning, the home of Fatah security chief, Rashid Abu Shbak was besieged by Hamas gunmen and at least five of Abu Shbak's body guards were killed.

Update on Palestinian-Israeli Violence:

Israeli media has reported that 30 Qassam rockets were fired by Palestinian militias towards Sderot and the Western Negev in Israel in the last two days, resulting in 28 injuries, including two woman (one elderly) who both suffered moderate to serious wounds.

At around 2 pm today, Israeli Air Force jets fired missiles into an Executive Support Forces base in southern Gaza. Three ESF members were reported dead and 27 injured.

Humanitarian concerns

Every day life in Gaza City has been paralysed as people are too afraid to leave their homes. Heavily-armed Palestinian gunmen from all factions are now controlling the streets of Gaza City. These gunmen have taken up sniper positions in a number of populated high-rise buildings that dominate western Gaza City.

There are no shelters for the civilian population, and most people can only seek cover inside their homes, leaving them vulnerable to stray bullets and other types of ammunition.

Streets are barricaded and masked gunmen at dozens of impromptu checkpoints stop the few vehicles traveling on the roads for ID checks and searches.

The fear of the civilian population of leaving their homes has begun to impact the delivery of public services and the commercial sector:

Access to education: On 13 and 15 May, UNRWA requested all Gaza Strip staff to leave their work places during the early afternoon. This caused some disruption to teaching schedules. Today, UNRWA staff in Gaza City were also requested to remain at home resulting in the closure of 45 schools in Gaza City and Beach camp. Elsewhere however, UNRWA teachers and pupils have shown a determination to reach their schools; yet the 15 schools in the Nuseirat area are only partially functioning.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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